doorhalfopen

Dumbfoundead is the real deal

by doorhalfopen

After my last post about my disappointment in the path Far East Movement is headed, I thought it would be appropriate to bring some optimism back to this blog. With an album finally on the horizon (maybe), it is a good time to introduce Dumbfoundead to those of you who aren’t familiar.

I first discovered Dumbfoundead the same way as many of his other early supporters–through his battle videos on Youtube. He caught my eye for a couple of reasons. First, there hadn’t been an Asian American freestyler with this level of skill since Jin. Second, because I got to witness a battle between two AA rappers for my first time.

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Worried about Far East Movement

by doorhalfopen

Last year was a huge year for someone like me because there were multiple Asian American artists leading the Billboard charts. Bruno Mars was the secret ingredient for a lot of the hit songs, and ended up dominating America with his own singles. The other big story was Koreatown-based Far East Movement finally made it big. Like a G6 became a bit of a party anthem all over the country (and even other parts of the world) for a while. “This is awesome”, I thought. “Asian Americans have finally become mainstream”.

Sort of.

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The Asian American focus on test scores and reinforcing the bamboo ceiling

by doorhalfopen

I’m sure by now many of you have heard of the New York Magazine article by Wesley Yang, Paper Tigers: What happens to Asian-American overachievers once test-taking ends?. It’s very long and has drawn a lot of criticism. The writer is uncompromising in the points he makes, which is one reason why the article generated so much buzz. It’s not hard to see why, with passages like this:

But intrinsic intelligence, of course, is precisely what Asians don’t believe in. They believe—and have ­proved—that the constant practice of test-taking will improve the scores of whoever commits to it.

Did an Asian American just generalize Asian Americans? That seems to be a major problem with this article right off the bat. If the writer wasn’t Asian himself, there would be masses of people out for his blood. As a result, a lot of responses are aimed at what was wrong with his points.

The problems with his writing and point of view are thoroughly covered in the many responses to it, such as the ones I linked to above. Instead of that, I want to focus on the points he does make, the issues that he does shine light on. After all, he is taking what he sees around him and interpreting it, with a few assumptions and generalizations thrown in. Biased as it might be, it’s still based on observation and I think it’s worth exploring.

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Glee’s “Born this Way” – the self-hating Asian

by doorhalfopen

I don’t watch Glee regularly. Not because I’m ashamed to do it, but because I found it to be a little monotonous after a few episodes (not the biggest fan of musicals). Nonetheless I paid some attention to where the show was headed. Like Star Trek in the 60s, Glee’s setting and storyline allows for a truly diverse cast that gives each actor and actress pretty significant screen time. Of course, this also means someone like Harry Shum Jr. gets a rare opportunity to have real lines on a popular American TV show.

Recently it was brought to my attention that one of the new episodes had a powerful message. Based around Lady Gaga’s track Born this Way, the theme was to be happy with yourself. This isn’t an uncommon theme amongst shows for children and teenagers. What stands out for me in this episodes, however, is that the characters bring up examples that are close to the kind of pressure real students face today.

The episode touches on subjects like plastic surgery, disorders, obesity, and homophobia. I think this is great. The teenage audience is also the most insecure, and I’m happy there are episodes like this available for them. For the purpose of this blog, I’ll be focusing on one issue that was briefly discussed by one of the characters: the self-hating Asian.

Mike and Tina, played by Harry Shum Jr. and Jenna Ushkowitz

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Asian frugality (and “cheap Asian parents”)

by doorhalfopen

I took my mom and brother out to dinner recently , and because I was paying I told them to order whatever they wanted. The meal ended up being pretty expensive, but we were happy. This got me thinking. Our family doesn’t do something like this very often. We’re not extremely wealthy, but we are not poor either. Yet every time we eat out our whole family is very conscious of the price. We never glance at the most expensive parts of the menu. As a result, we generally order the same thing every time we go out. If we grab Italian food, it’s the medium-priced pasta. At a Japanese restaurant, it’s the chirashi or sashimi combo. We seldom ate like we did tonight.

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Review: Almost Perfect

by doorhalfopen

I was fortunate enough to attend the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF) this year. Since my friends generally aren’t very involved when it comes to AA current events, it was nice to see people who instantly recognized Angry Asian Man8Asians.com, etc. I actually met a blogger from 8Asians and Ho Chie fromTaiwaneseAmerican.org. All in all it was a cool experience.

I only saw two films during the night that I attended, both of which I had no knowledge of prior to the festival. While I felt that Almost Perfect and When Love Comes both deserve more exposure than they currently have in the US, I will focus on the former because it is a purely Asian American film. When Love Comes is an amazing movie too, but it is a Taiwanese Production and less relevant to this blog. Check it out if you would like to watch a Juno-esque film from the perspective of Taiwanese youth and with better storytelling.

Almost Perfect had relatively big names in Edison Chen and Kelly Hu but I never heard of it. With no knowledge of the film other than a brief synopsis before entering the theater, I was able to go into the film with a blank slate.

Almost Perfect, starring Kelly Hu

 

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Is Jackie Chan the Tiger Dad?

by doorhalfopen

I came across this article about how Jackie Chan will be donating all his money to charity when he passes away. That’s great and not something I see a lot of Chinese celebrities do, so I’m happy to see it. Then Jackie starts to talk about how he is leaving none of it to his son, and I was no longer sure how to react.

Chan, who already willed half his fortune to charity, expressed Thursday that his son will get nothing after he passes away.
“If he is capable, he can make his own money.
“If he is not, then he will just be wasting my money,” said Chan.
Although the younger Chan received an award that night, his father was still not satisfied and regretted not pushing him to greater heights.
“I really regret not sending him into the army in the past, to give him more experience and temper his character,” the 56-year-old star said.

Of course, this is most likely a result of the media giving it more emphasis than necessary, but considering how much attention Amy Chua got as Tiger Mom, it’s interesting to see an Asian celebrity dad call out his celebrity son like that. Personally, since I grew up in the US with relatively open-minded parents, I really don’t support this method of parenting. I just don’t see how telling someone they’re never good enough would inspire them. That’s definitely not how I get inspired.

On the other hand, I also am not a big fan of inheritance, so I understand his reasoning. Why should Jaycee Chan just be handed money? His dad was a rags-to-riches story. Jackie Chan has no reason to leave money for his son. I was just surprised at how harsh he was to Jaycee in public.

Asians in the library, the simple-minded on Youtube

by doorhalfopen

My friend showed me this video, which seems to be spreading rather quickly on the internet, about a girl from UCLA who has something to say about Asians at her school. There’s no point in describing the video; you can see for yourself. The original has been taken down but luckily the internet has done with it does best. You can see a copy of the video below.

Where to start? First of all, she is entitled to her own opinion. No one can stop her from thinking the way that she does. Having that said, I have a bunch of thoughts with no particular way of organizing them. I’m just going to write a list. This probably isn’t all that I think is wrong with the video, but it is what immediately comes to mind.

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Who needs Cameron Diaz? Interracial love in Fast Five

by doorhalfopen

Things were starting to look good last year. The Warrior’s Way, while not exactly looking like a masterpiece, showed that studios were beginning to have the guts to experiment with Asian male leads. Jay Chou was set to play Kato in Green Hornet, the role that first introduced Bruce Lee to Western audiences. The Asian roles in these two movies were expected to have love interests just like roles played by ‘normal people’!

Unfortunately The Warrior’s Way flopped, and some critics in the AA community pointed out that it was proof that Asian males are still restricted to the same stereotypical roles. Green Hornet fared a little better, and Jay Chou got some exposure on some big shows like Jimmy Kimmel Live. Then came the news that one of the biggest names in the movie, Cameron Diaz, refused to kiss Jay Chou. This wasn’t a case of the scene not being in the movie. The director and producer felt like it would have added to the film, and the actress refused to do what she was paid to do.

Yes, there was progress last year, but it was also a huge wake up call: there’s still quite a ways to go. Why did she refuse? The official response is, according to director Michel Gondry, “she felt the story would lead to a complexity she didn’t want to deal with”. The real reason? I am not sure, but it probably has a lot to do with reputation or her own biases.

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Breaking stereotypes: you’re doing it wrong

by doorhalfopen

One reason why I started this blog was to provide a bit of an in-between perspective on certain issues. One thing that I’ve experienced a lot while growing up is Asian stereotypes (good and bad) and how people react to them. From what I’ve personally observed, people can generally be placed in one of three groups when it comes to stereotypes.

  1. They are completely unaware of these stereotypes. This seems to be very common amongst immigrants because naturally they wouldn’t know what other groups are saying about them.
  2. They know about the stereotypes, but it doesn’t really affect them.
  3. They are aware, and they make a conscious effort to let people know that they do not fit the stereotypes.

I can’t say I know the solution to ending stereotypes. However, I firmly believe that the third option is not beneficial–perhaps even counter-productive–to this cause. To make myself clear, I am not referring to people who simply express that they don’t fit a stereotype. I am talking about people who make it a point to make sure everyone knows. This sort of behavior appears to be picking up steam as more people are aware of Asian American issues. I appreciate the spirit and intention, yet there are better ways to do it.

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